Study Guide

The House of the Scorpion Quotes

By Nancy Farmer

  • Identity

    "I'll tell you this: El Patrón has his good side and his bad side. Very dark indeed is his majesty when he wants to be. When he was young, he made a choice, like a tree does when it decides to grow one way or the other. He grew large and green until he shadowed over the whole forest, but most of his branches are twisted." (7.38)

    When it comes to Matt's identity, El Patrón is the big elephant in the room. His power and influence are always there, along with the question: will Matt, too, turn out to be twisted?

    He couldn't see much difference between himself and Tom, but perhaps he was different inside. The doctor once told Rosa that clones went to pieces when they got older. What did that mean? (7.45)

    Even at the age of seven, Matt is dealing with some pretty gnarly questions of identity. Here, he questions his own future, when he might go "to pieces."

    Even so, the ability to create music filled him with a joy too large to contain. He forgot where he was. He forgot he was a clone. The music made up for everything. (9.42)

    Matt's love for music is one of the few bright spots in his fairly dark upbringing, and the lovely language in this quote helps us understand just how important that bright spot is to him and his identity.

    He wasn't a clone! He couldn't be! Somehow, somewhere a mistake had been made. [...] Was he going to end up strapped to a bed, screaming until he ran out of air? (13.1)

    The short sentences and exclamation points emphasize Matt's shock and panic after seeing MacGregor's brain-damaged clone in the hospital. Matt is, to put it plainly, scared out of his wits.

    As had happened when he was deeply upset before, the power of speech left him. He was six years old again, master of a kingdom of gristle and bone and rotting fruit hidden beneath the sawdust in a little room. (13.119)

    Even though he was just seven when it happened, that period of captivity at the hands of Rosa has a pretty big impact on Matt's identity.

    But Tam Lin had called Matt a human and expected much more from him. Humans, Matt realized, were a lot harder to forgive. (14.12)

    By splitting the sentence, Farmer emphasizes her point more clearly, because we start with "humans" and end with "forgive." But why? Why are humans harder to forgive?

    He wasn't sure why he wanted to wake her up, only that it seemed horrible to see her so changed. If there was anything left of Rosa, it was locked in an iron box. (17.8)

    Does Rosa's identity still exist? Or is she gone forever?

    There was still the terrible fate of the other clones to consider.

    My brothers, thought Matt. (19.53-54)

    This brief scene really shakes us up. It's pretty scary to think of all the other Matts who have died to keep El Patrón alive all these years. When he calls them his brothers, it's almost as if he's grieving for their deaths, even though he never knew them.

    "No one can tell the difference between a clone and a human. That's because there isn't any difference. The idea of clones being inferior is a filthy lie." (24.42)

    Darn tootin', Tam Lin! The idea that Matt is an animal is a bunch of nonsense. It's nothing but lies made up by ignorant members of the Alacrán household.

    All those years [Celia]'d told him not to think of her as his mother fell away. No one else cared for him the way she did. No one protected him or loved him so much, except, perhaps, Tam Lin. And Tam Lin was like his father. (31.102)

    Here, Matt realizes that he really does have a family, even if it's not the most normal in the world. He's more than just someone's clone, he's the surrogate son of two awesome people.

    The plan must have been in El Patrón's mind all along. He'd never intended to let Mr. Alacrán or Steven inherit the kingdom. Their education was as hollow as Matt's. None of them was meant to survive. (38.28)

    All of El Patrón's clones are destined for death. How do you keep a sense of self when you know you will be killed to keep someone else alive?

    Tomorrow he would begin the task of breaking down the empire of Opium. It was a huge and terrifying job, but he wasn't alone. (38.63)

    Here's a new identity for Matt. He's no longer the lonely clone. He's now responsible for an entire country, and he's got friends to boot.

  • Choices

    "When you're small you can choose which way to grow." (7.40)

    Tam Lin is one smart dude. Whether he knows it or not, Matt's entire life before age fourteen is made up of a series of decisions about who he wants to become.

    "He's deeply religious. He thinks God put him on earth for a certain number of years and that he mustn't ask for more."
    El Patrón stared at Mr. Alacrán for a long moment. (11.51-2)

    El Viejo chooses to believe in God. El Patrón choose to believe in... himself. The conflict between these two isn't explored much in the novel, but the contrast couldn't be more stark.

    For an instant he wanted to say, Stop. It was a joke, I didn't mean it. But it was too late. El Patrón was watching them with obvious glee, and Matt realized it might be dangerous to draw back now. (11.87)

    Poor Matt's bad decisions start to spiral out of control here. Plus, Matt realizes that once you make a bad call, it's really hard to take it back. Some things are irreversible.

    "I always say the truth is best even when we find it unpleasant. Any rat in a sewer can lie. It's how rats are. It's what makes them rats. But a human doesn't run and hide in dark places, because he's something more. Lying is the most personal act of cowardice their is." (13.110)

    A human is something more, indeed. Why? Because unlike a rat that's hardwired, humans can make choices and face the truth.

    The regrets piled thickly on one another until Matt's thoughts were running around in his head like a hamster on a wheel. (14.8)

    With choices come regrets. It's unavoidable. It's what Matt does with those regrets that will matter most.

    "Give things away? I can't believe I heard that! What have they been teaching you?"

    "It was only a suggestion," Matt said, aghast at the reaction he'd provoked. (18.61-62)

    El Patrón's reaction and subsequent freak-out to Matt's seemingly innocent suggestion is pretty funny because it's just so extreme. But this scene also reveals just how selfish El Patrón is – he can't even comprehend giving things away.

    "Maybe your plan won't work out. We need a backup," Celia said.

    "You'll kill him."

    She looked up at the secret camera. "I'd die rather than let that happen." (20.36-38)

    Celia and Tam Lin are up to something regarding Matt. And once we learn just what that something is, Celia has won our hearts forever.

    "Either you press that scorpion and we escape together, or we stay here and starve together. I'm not leaving you! Now or ever!" (22.76)

    Way to go María! She's the one calling the shots in this scene, and it's a good thing, because Matt seems almost unable to make a choice.

    Everything was ready for me. Tam Lin gave me maps and food and showed me how to climb mountains. I didn't understand. I didn't want to understand. (23.3)

    Matt recognizes his own choice of blindness here. He didn't want to make any decisions that would change his life, so he opted to ignore the obvious, because it was easier that way. But now he knows – you have to choose to face the facts.

    "I can't," Tam Lin's voice was sad. "You see, I've done terrible things in my life, and I can't escape the consequences." (24.36)

    Do you think that Tam Lin makes the right decision here? Should he have gone with Matt? What would have happened if he had?

  • Power

    El Patrón laughed. "That's the stuff, Mi Vida. Get rid of your enemies when you can. I don't like Tom either, and dinner will be better without him." (11.30)

    If El Patrón is happy about something, it probably means that it's not a good thing. And this scene is no exception.

    "We don't always know who might be listening." Again Celia looked around, and Matt remembered what Tam Lin had told him about hidden cameras in the house. (13.23)

    We hear about the surveillance system at the Big House a couple of times, and each time we hear about it we get a reminder about just how powerful (and power-crazed) El Patrón is. After all, the real power is knowledge. If he knows what's going on in these people's lives, he can use that information to control them.

    "There's been enough damn secrecy around this place! There's been enough damn lies!"
    "Please," Celia said urgently, placing her hand on Tam Lin's arm. "The cameras - " (19.23-4)

    Tam Lin's meltdown, and Celia's reminder, show just how trapped they are in El Patrón's fishbowl of a mansion.

    Hints had been as thick as fireflies in the courtyard garden. They brightened with promise. They stayed alight almost long enough to show Matt what they were. But then, like the fireflies, they vanished. Tam Lin and Celia were far too careful. (19.37)

    Careful about what? We're dying to know. But of course, El Patrón's always watching, so we won't find out until the last possible second.

    "You're exactly like Tam Lin," said María. "He says El Patrón is like a force of nature - a tornado or volcano or something. He says you can't help being awestruck even when you might get killed. I think it's all rubbish!" (22.25)

    María's disgust with El Patrón makes sense to us. We have trouble understanding his appeal at times. Out of all the characters in the book, María is the least swayed by power.

    "Arsenic creeps into the whole body," Celia went on, her eyes as cold as the eyes of a snake. "It grows into the hair, it makes little white lines in the fingernails, it settles into the heart." (23.55)

    The build-up of tension in this chapter make it one of our favorites. Celia really shines here as she unleashes all her anger at El Patrón and gives him the biggest shock of his life. If anyone has the power in this scene, it's Celia.

    Vampire! thought Matt. El Patrón would have enjoyed that description. He loved to inspire fear. (27.139)

    Having the power to inspire fear is what El Patrón thrives on, because it gives him control. If people didn't fear him, they wouldn't play by his rules.

    "Some boys," Jorge said in a thin, almost wheedling voice that sent chills down Matt's back, "some boys have to learn the hard way. They have to be broken and mended and broken again until they learn to do what they're told." (30.64)

    Well gee, Jorge, that's not creepy at all.  The threats he makes are scary enough, but what's really frightening is the detail we get about Jorge's tone of voice.

    "Power's a strange thing, lad. It's a drug and people like me crave it. It wasn't till I met Celia that I saw what a monster I'd become. I was too happy, swaggering around in El Patrón's shadow. (24.25)

    Tam Lin needs to release a book of quotations and words of wisdom. He sums up everything perfectly! Plus, though we never really learn the extent of Celia and Tam Lin's relationship, the detail we get about her here points to just how close the two have become.

    "Tam Lin did what he wanted to do," Celia said. "He was guilty of a terrible crime when he was young, and he could never forgive himself for it. He believed this last act would make up for everything." (38.37)

    Just as Celia exercised power against El Patrón in poisoning Matt, by sacrificing himself, Tam Lin has used his own power of free will to destroy El Patrón's legacy and ensure that Opium will one day be destroyed.

  • Compassion and Forgiveness

    He wasted no tears on the Alacráns or their slaves Felicia, Fani, and Emilia. But he wept for El Patrón, who deserved pity less than anyone but who was closer to Matt than anyone in the world. (25.23)

    Matt's a compassionate and deeply conflicted individual, and his love for El Patrón is twisted and confusing and, ultimately, understandable.

    As though it could hear, the infant flexed its tiny body in the womb until it was turned toward the man. And Eduardo felt an unreasoning stir of affection. (1.16)

    Matt's birth is not your typical birth. The closest thing he gets to the usual tender moment with the mother is this moment with Eduardo, the scientist who creates him.

    "Take the creature outside."

    Rosa hesitated, obviously bewildered.

    The man leaned forward and whispered into her ear.

    A look of horror crossed Rosa's face. She instantly scooped up Matt and ran. (3.110-13)

    Rosa hates clones so much she's willing to completely change her behavior toward Matt the moment she discovers the truth about his identity. But we can't blame only Rosa. The prejudice is so widespread in Opium that almost everyone feels the exact same way.

    Why shouldn't María be his girlfriend? Why should he be different from everyone else because he was a clone? (11.78)

    Matt the clone is just looking for some love. We can't blame him for that. But we can blame him for his treatment of María at the birthday party. It's a moment of weakness from an otherwise nice guy.

    Matt held his tongue. He wanted to say that he hadn't poisoned Furball and didn't need forgiveness, but he didn't want to spoil María's mood. (16.21)

    Way to take the high road, Matt. We were not big fans of María in this scene. Though we ordinarily like her, her dismissal of Matt means deep down, she still thinks of him as not quite human. And that's not quite cool, María.

    "You aren't evil, only [...]"

    "Only what?"

    "You don't have a soul, so you can't be baptized. All animals are like that." (16.35-37)

    Yikes. We cringe. As a young girl, María still can't quite rise above all those prejudices that the world has taught her. This must have been hard for Matt to hear, but he's a forgiving guy, so we're betting he'll get over it.

    What Matt hated about the creature was everyone's assumption that he and Furball were the same. It didn't matter that Matt had excellent grades and good manners. They were both animals and thus unimportant. (9.6)

    Matt misplaces his resentment for being treated like an animal on Furball, because he's the only animal around. Of course this isn't fair to the dog, but you might think of it as form of self-preservation. Matt is angry, and it might be better that he take it out on the dog, rather than the powerful Alacráns, who are the real problem.

    I'm different. I wasn't created to provide spare parts.

    El Patrón had refused to let the doctors destroy Matt's brain. He'd protected him and given him Celia and Tam Lin for company. (19.49-50)

    El Patrón has fooled Matt into thinking he's special, when he's really no different from all the clones before. Matt thinks El Patrón is compassionate and loving, when really he's the worst of all the Alacráns.

    Celia immediately knelt down and put her arms around him. "Don't cry, mi vida. I love you more than anything in the world. I'll explain things to you when you're older." (1.7)

    What would we do without Celia? She's really a mother to Matt, no matter what she says, and we're pretty sure her loving care is what helps Matt to become such a compassionate person as he grows up.

    He grabbed Chacho and pulled him back. "We mustn't kill him!"
    "Why not?" demanded the boy. (32.24-5)

    Matt's refusal to murder Jorge, even though Jorge totally has it coming, shows just how different Matt is from El Patrón.

    He understood the full extent of it now. It wasn't only the drug addicts throughout the world or the Illegals doomed to slavery. It was their orphaned children as well. You could even say the old man was responsible for the Keepers. (38.44)

    Matt's world view starts to broaden in the last part of the book, and he's able to think with compassion about some of the world's larger problems – not just his own drama.

  • Isolation

    So Matt allowed her to go, but he was angry at the same time. It was a funny kind of anger, for he felt like crying, too. The house was so lonely without Celia singing, banging pots, or talking about people he had never seen and never would see. (1.10)

    Matt begins his life in total isolation. He doesn't know or play with other children, and his only companion is Celia, who is gone for most of the day.

    He could talk and talk and talk, but the people couldn't hear him.
    Matt was swept with such an intense feeling of desolation, he thought he would die. He hugged himself to keep from screaming. (1.26)

    We get an interesting contrast here between little six-year-old Matt's panic and despair and the narrator's own more mature voice, which uses words like "desolation."

    Matt was frankly relieved to see them go. They were an unwelcome intrusion in the orderly world he had created. He could forget them now and get back to the contemplation of his kingdom. (5.110)

    For the first time we learn just how psychologically damaged Matt has become due to his captivity. The only way he can deal with his powerlessness is by having total control over his sawdust kingdom.

    He kept the blinds closed, even though the windows looked out onto a beautiful walled garden. He didn't want anything new in his life, no matter how beautiful. (6.76)

    Matt is scared to deal with anything new, so he uses his blinds (nice metaphor there, Farmer) to shut himself off from the world. He's concealing himself from everyone else, and he's concealing the outside world from his own eyes.

    She attacked the piano with a fervor completely different from her usual, sluggish self, and Matt liked to hide behind the potted plants to listen. (9.10)

    When Felicia plays the piano, she comes back to life, even though she's still very alone. She and Matt have a lot in common both in how they approach music, and their low positions in the Big House.

    The day after a birthday party was always a letdown. The power Matt enjoyed as El Patrón's clone vanished. The servants went back to ignoring him. The Alacráns treated him like something Furball had coughed up on the carpet. (12.4)

    Whatever taste of power and popularity Matt had on his birthday has totally disappeared. On his birthday, Matt gets an idea of what it's like to be a normal kid. But as soon as the party's done, he's back to being less-than-human.

    "What happened to the other people who crossed the border?" he asked.
    "Them?" Celia's voice was flat and expressionless. "They were all turned into eejits." And she refused to say any more about it. (14.58-9)

    Celia's backstory shows us just how alone she is. Before now, Matt's been the lonely one. But for the first time we realize Celia hasn't had it too great, either.

    He felt a whisper of fear as he walked into the mountains. This time he was alone. (15.16)

    Even though he's isolated, Matt has never been totally and completely alone. Until now.

    He saw the Farm Patroller ride away and looked down to see he would have no trouble convincing the Aztlános he was a refugee. He had no backpack, no money, and he was covered from head to toe in black slime. (25.49)

    Picture Matt standing all alone in Aztlán. Not only does he have no one to help him – he's got no stuff either.

    'Chacho?" he called to the sea of bones turning gray in the predawn light. "Chacho!" Matt's voice was carried off by the breeze. "I'm outside. I'm safe. You can be too. Just come toward my voice."

    No answer. (34.7-8)

    What a scary moment. Even though Matt has just escaped death, he's more alone than ever. And imagine how horrible Chacho must feel, now that he's the only one left in the boneyard.

  • Lies and Deceit

    "I knew nothing about it until today," said the doctor.

    "You're lying! Tell them, Willum! You thought it was funny. You said the beast - the boy - was in good condition!" (6.33-34)

    Does anyone in this house ever tell the truth? Willum, the awful doctor, relies on lies just as much as everyone else does to get what he wants.

    "You're too young to understand much, and I wouldn't say anything if you were a real boy." Tam Lin tossed bread crumbs into the pool. The little fish rose to the surface to feed. "But you're a clone," he went on. "You haven't got anyone to explain things to you." (7.45)

    Tam Lin treats Matt like a human for the most part but he also acknowledges just how different Matt is. Apparently, when you're a clone, no one thinks it's important to keep you in the loop. Except for Tam Lin, of course.

    That was Tom though. He could be courteous and helpful on the surface, but you never knew what was going on underneath. (10.37)

    Tom keeps his sneaky motives secret. And honestly, sometimes we just don't want to know what awful deed he's plotting next.

    "You're the one who invited me," said María. "Why couldn't you find somewhere nice? This place is creepy."

    Matt's alarm system went on at once. "I didn't invite you." (12.41-42)

    We kind of suspected Matt was being set up when Felicia went to see him. When did you get clued in?

    "Tom is MacGregor's son, you know," said Celia. "I shouldn't tell you these things at your age, but nobody gets a decent childhood in the Alacrán household. They're all scorpions." (13.14)

    Celia's instinct is to keep Matt in the dark. In fact, that seems like everyone's instinct. But she resists it and tells him the truth for once.

    "I'm not lying!"

    "Ah, well. Perhaps I'm expecting too much of you." (13.115-16)

    Ouch. In Matt's case, not being believed hurts almost as much as being lied to.

    "Felicia poisoned Furball," María said.

    "What are you talking about?" Tam Lin was clearly startled. (16.99-100)

    We were very relieved when the truth about Furball came out. Were you surprised that Felicia was the killer?

    "But you let the doctors turn Celia into an eejit," said Matt.

    "I did not! I marked her forehead so it appeared like she was operated on. I put her in the stables with Rosa." (24.26-27)

    Tam Lin's defensive tone here is kind of funny. He's very insulted by what Matt accused him of doing. But of course Matt doesn't have the whole truth yet, so Tam Lin has to set him straight.

    No, no, no, thought Matt. His weakness had been found out. Even though the Keeper had drawn the wrong conclusion about the tattoo, it was just as devastating. (32.52)

    Matt's panic at being "discovered" by the Lost Boys and the Keepers is very intense. And we get an interesting theme introduced here: truths can be just as dangerous as lies.

    "I see," said Esperanza. "And the boneyard is just a myth, too."

    "You know how it is," Jorge said smoothly. "Boys like to scare one another with stories after dark." (36.69-70)

    Esperanza is all about the truth. And Jorge is all about whatever lie will get him what he wants. So who's going to win this showdown?

  • Science

    A dull, red light shown on the faces of the workers as they watched their own arrays of little glass dishes. Each one contained a drop of life. (1.2)

    The start of the novel contrasts wonderfully with the subsequent chapters. After kicking things off in a futuristic lab, we go to the time-warp of Opium.

    Perhaps the cows were aware of what had been done to them, because they certainly rejected the embryos. (1.13)

    The experiments done in this novel are pretty disturbing, and nothing is as disturbing as the fact that they use cows to grow clones. That's gotta have some nasty side effects.

    "You idiot! You need a vet for the little beast!" the man roared. "How dare you defile this house?" (3.108)

    Matt may be a marvel of modern science, but Mr. Alacrán sees him as a beast and something subhuman. Perhaps that's actually because Matt is a marvel of modern science, and wasn't created the old school way.

    "You're a clone," he murmured. "Know what that is? A kind of puke. You were puked up by a cow." (7.19)

    We hate Tom. Tom's hatred and cruel descriptions here definitely emphasize just how prejudiced people are against clones. Plus it reminds us just how unsavory science can be.

    He was in a rage to learn. He would excel, and then everyone would love him and forget he was a clone. (9.52)

    Why do Matt's scientific beginnings put him at such a disadvantage? And why will excelling at learning help him overcome that disadvantage?

    "This unbaptized limb of Satan has no right to make a mockery of this rite! Would you bring a dog to church?" (9.53)

    Of course at this point, we're used to other's mistreatment of Matt for his clone status. But even the priest? Can't the kid catch a break? Maybe the priest is just worried about that age-old clash between religion and science. In El Patrón's world, the two are as much at odds as ever.

    "You were grown in that poor cow for nine months, and then you were cut out of her. You were harvested. She was sacrificed." (10.27)

    Contrast Tam Lin's horror about science with Tom's commentary on clones and cows. Tam Lin is upset by what was done to produce Matt, not at Matt himself.

    Now, for the hundredth time, Matt thought about why anyone would create a monster. (10.39)

    The cloning process and modern science definitely lack compassion. No one thinks about how the creation will feel once it's been created.

    It didn't matter how intelligent he was. In the end the only thing that mattered was how strong his heart was. (22.6)

    María raised her head. "Matt's human?"

    "He always was," her mother replied. "The law is a wicked fiction to make it possible to use clones for transplants." (37.41-2)

    The only thing that prevents others from viewing Matt as human is a stupid law? Why hasn't anyone questioned it before?

  • Slavery

    "Someone isn't going to get a smiley face on his paper," Teacher said with a gasp, leaning against the wall. She started to whimper like a frightened animal. (7.69)

    Matt's youthful rage in this scene is downright scary, and the Teacher's response is so pathetic that we (and Matt) can't feel anything but awful.

    "An eejit is a person or animal with an implant in its head," said Tam Lin. (8.65)

    All it takes to make someone El Patrón's helpless slave is an implant. That's science run amok. We don't know about you, but this is not the kind of future Shmoop is hoping for.

    "Rosa?" Matt said.
    She looked at him. "Do you wish another horse, Master?" The voice was the same, but the old anger was gone. (15.7-8)

    What's really interesting and shocking here is not that Rosa is an eejit, but what being an eejit has done to her. Anger, the emotion that defined her character to us and Matt, is gone. In fact, she has no emotions whatsoever.

    Surely, opium could be grown by normal people. They might not be as efficient, but anything was better than a mindless army of slaves. (17.31)

    Even at a young age, Matt recognizes the horrors of slavery and wants to fix it somehow. And already he knows that compassion is more important than efficiency. At least someone in Opium gets it.

    El Patrón sold those people's souls to the Devil! When they died, he plowed their bodies into the dirt for fertilizer. The roots of Opium are watered in blood. (20.23)

    Esperanza may sound a bit over-the-top. But, she's also totally right. El Patrón built his empire on the backs of slaves, and that's just plain wrong.

    Matt thought they made a pretty picture until he realized that the little girls were eejits. (21.13)

    This is proof – appearances can be deceiving. What seems a lovely wedding is made totally creepy by the fact that the flower girls are slaves. That's not the picture perfect nuptials we all dream about.

    The clean word for them was zombies. Whatever they were called, Matt thought they deserved pity, not hatred. (27.140)

    In Aztlán, people use different names for all sorts of things, including the descriptive word "zombie" for the eejit slaves. The use of the word zombie is revealing: these boys see eejits (many of whom were once their relatives, we might add) as the walking undead. Eejits aren't just sad – they're scary.

    "All our parents are crots." A flurry of voices rose telling Ton-Ton to shut up. "Our mamas and papas aren't b-bad, just unlucky," the boy went on in his relentless way, "and M-Matt isn't bad either!" (32.61)

    Good for you, Ton-Ton. He knows what's up. It's not the eejit's fault that they're eejits, and it's not Matt's fault that he's a clone. They just don't have any say in the matter.

    "Are you saying - ?" the Keeper stopped, as though he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Are you suggesting we turn the horse into a zombie?"

    "I don't see much difference between that and sawing off the extra leg," said Matt. (27.125-26)

    Matt recognizes that there are a lot of different forms of slavery and that the Keepers are enslaving the Lost Boys just as El Patrón enslaves the eejits, no matter what they tell themselves.

  • Death

    He saw the fantastic gardens of the Big House, the statues of babies with wings, the orange trees festooned with lights. This was his last night on earth, and he wanted to remember everything. (22.124)

    Everything in these lines seems beautiful. But how can it, when Matt knows he's about to die?

    "You've had many lives," Celia said. "Thousands of them are buried under the poppy fields." (23.34)

    If El Patrón thinks he deserves to live extra for all the siblings he's lost, Celia points out that he's taken enough lives to live thousands of lifetimes. It's time to give up, El Patrón. You lost this round.

    "There were eight of us," the old man cried. "We should all have grown up, but I was the only survivor. I am meant to have those lives! I am meant to have justice!" (23.30)

    El Patrón's idea of "justice" is warped to say the least. Check out the "Characters" section for more on his fear of death and his obsession with his past.

    "Tam Lin says rabbits give up when they're caught by coyotes," Matt said after he'd calmed enough to trust his voice. "He says they consent to die because they're animals and can't understand hope. But humans are different. They fight against death no matter how bad things seem." (33.47)

    Well in that case, Matt is definitely human, because he totally has hope. And he perseveres through all kinds of life-threatening situations. Our Matt has some serious staying power.

    But never, never, never had anyone dreamed of throwing a party for Death! (35.40)

    The Day of the Dead. Okay, we'll be honest and say that sounds a little depressing, but it's really a celebration. And how refreshing for Matt to meet people who honor death, rather than fear it. That must have come as quite a strange surprise.

    Before the next minute had passed, they had all fallen to the ground. Just like that. As though someone had reached inside and turned off a switch.

    "What happened?" Matt asked, gasping.

    I went from one person to the next, trying to wake them up, but they were all dead, wrote Daft Donald. (38.18-20)

    For a man who hates death, El Patrón sure is surrounded by it. Even from the grave he murders his entire family. It's almost as if he thinks if he dies, everyone else must, too.

    Matt could see the buried tomb in his mind's eye - the broken wineglasses, El Patrón's portrait staring up from the coffin, the bodyguards laid out in their dark suits. (38.35)

    Death is very, very real to Matt. The death of the Alacrán clan, while horrifying, also brings some much needed closure. At least now Opium can get out from under El Patrón.

    "See, there's an example of someone who didn't get his implants when he should have," said El Patrón, pointing at El Viejo. (11.45)

    El Patrón seems to think that El Viejo is a big fat loser for accepting death. It's as if El Patrón is in some creepy competition, where he has to outsmart death at every turn, and anyone who doesn't is a fool.

    Inside, looking more like a starved bird than anything else, was El Viejo. He was dressed in a black suit, and his sharp nose stuck up like a beak against the ivory silk lining. (14.37)

    El Viejo's corpse is not a pretty sight. In a weird way, it helps Matt (and us) to understand why El Patrón keeps trying to cheat death. If this is what he has to look forward to, it sure isn't appealing.

    Tom was there too, his lying, oh-so-believable voice stilled forever. How many times had Matt entertained himself with thoughts of Tom's downfall? Now that it had happened, Matt felt numb. (38.36)

    There's no doubt about it: death is no picnic. Though Matt had always anticipated Tom's death with glee, when it comes around, he seems... confused. And we can't blame him. The fact that so many people died is sad, of course, but it also means that Opium might finally have a chance at becoming a better place.